Knowledge Synthesis Grants

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What new ways of learning, particularly in higher education, will Canadians need to thrive in an evolving society and labour market?

February 2015 Competition


Canada, like many other countries, is focusing critical attention on the way its education system, especially higher education, is conceptualized, structured and delivered in light of the knowledge and skills required for the 21st century. Debates are emerging in the research community and other sectors regarding effective methods of teaching and learning with a focus on learning outcomes. The breadth of resources, perspectives and areas of inquiry within this topic call for a synthesis of the current state of knowledge, including assessment and evaluation of its overall quality, accuracy and rigour, and identification of knowledge gaps where more research is required.

SSHRC is therefore launching a Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity, to which the social sciences and humanities can contribute insights focusing on the future challenge area addressed in the question: What new ways of learning, particularly in higher education, will Canadians need to thrive in an evolving society and labour market?

This topic is one of six future challenge areas identified in SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. These complex issues were identified following an extensive foresight exercise and reflect key challenges that Canada is likely to face in an evolving global context over the coming decades, and to which the social sciences and humanities research community can contribute its knowledge, talent and expertise.

In support of the objectives noted below, these knowledge synthesis grants will foster a deeper understanding of the knowledge, delivery mechanisms and learning outcomes necessary for the Canadian education system to support and sustain an innovative, resilient and diverse society. They will help to identify the roles that  the public, private and not-for-profit sectors may play in creating and sustaining new ways of learning, and teaching  and will pave the way for developing robust policies, practices and tools.

This Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity also seeks to complement the reports released in March 2014, resulting from the 2013 Knowledge Synthesis Grants on Skills Development for Future Needs of the Canadian Labour Market.


The objectives of this funding opportunity are three-fold, as noted below:

  • State of Knowledge and Research Gaps:
    • describe the state of knowledge of the future challenge area theme under consideration;
    • identify knowledge gaps within the theme; and
    • identify the most promising policies and practices related to the theme.
  • Research Data:
    • assess the quality, accuracy and rigour of current work in the field; and
    • identify gaps in the quantitative and qualitative data available.
  • Knowledge Mobilization:
    • mobilize knowledge related to promising policies and practices within the academic, private and public policy sectors; and
    • facilitate dialogue between academic researchers, cross-sectoral stakeholders and education-related policy-makers in government.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are not intended to support original research. Rather, they are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps. This call is particularly focused on the state of research knowledge emerging over the past 10 years.

The purpose of this funding opportunity is to support researchers, teams of researchers and knowledge users to produce knowledge syntheses and scoping reviews that will contribute to the use of synthesized evidence in decision-making and practice.

The call for proposals invites applications from researchers in any discipline that may inform and contribute to the objectives of this funding opportunity, including contributing to educational policies regarding learning and teaching. Our educational system, including higher education and the role of universities and other postsecondary institutions in imparting skills, knowledge, and resources, will shape our future society. The Imagining Canada’s Future foresight initiative highlighted three major drivers for change and social transformation in a variety of areas, domestically and internationally:

  • changing demographics;
  • increased global forces; and
  • rapidly evolving and emerging technologies.

The following themes were drawn from the “new ways of learning” challenge area, as well as from the larger list of six future challenge areas and subquestions based on their relevance to and synergies with this particular exercise. Other issues demonstrably relevant to the themes and subquestions listed below are welcome, as are international comparisons because they may inform policy issues that are relevant for Canada.

Proposals should address one or more of the specific questions listed under the themes. However, applicants may choose to identify and/or develop specific aspects or elements within the questions to frame the knowledge synthesis to be produced. The call for proposals covers all levels of schooling, from primary school through high school, and across the full range of postsecondary education. Please note that, for the purposes of this call, we are referring to this collectively as “the Canadian education system.”



1. What knowledge and learning outcomes are required in order for the Canadian education system to support and sustain an innovative, resilient and diverse society?

  • What knowledge does a diverse and/or globalized student body seek from educational institutions and work environments?
  • What innovative and collective approaches to learning, teaching and research are being developed by educational institutions, particularly universities, colleges and institutes, and what learning outcomes have been identified to date?
  • What does the Canadian education system do to foster deepened knowledge and understanding in support of intercultural understanding and international connectivity?
  • What does the Canadian education system at all levels do to develop adequate and sustainable linguistic diversity, literacy and numeracy skills?
  • What are the leading approaches and models for identifying learning and/or teaching needs and outcomes for learners, society and the labour market?
  • What role do evaluation and learning analytics play in informing the evolving Canadian education system?
  • What are the impacts of evolving accountability systems for postsecondary institutions on Canadian education, including outcomes-based education and competency-based education for workforce development?

2. What delivery methods are required in order for the Canadian education system to support and sustain an innovative, resilient and diverse society?

  • What roles do emerging and/or disruptive information and communications technologies play in promoting deeper learning?
  • What roles do postsecondary institutions, governments and employers play to meet learning and societal needs?
  • What are the best practices to ensure access to and/or mobility within Canadian education for a diverse student body including persons with disabilities, adult learners, international students and immigrants?
  • What are the best practices for learning delivery, including open, flexible and connected learning in a digital environment, experiential learning, distance learning, land-based learning, tailored and service learning, and internships?
  • What are the learning experiences of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples of Canada, and how are they informing the future of learning, teaching and research, for urban, rural and remote Aboriginal communities?
  • How is the Canadian education system harnessing Canada’s strength and innovation in the arts, digital media and cultural industries to build social, economic and cultural well-being?
  • How are new ways of learning fostering greater knowledge and competency in critical and analytical thinking, problem-solving, and communication of complex ideas and data?


Value and Duration

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are worth up to $25,000 over six months. Up to 15 grants will be awarded. Successful applicants will be provided with a set of guidelines for completion of their final report.

All synthesis reports must be completed by October 31, 2015. By applying for this funding opportunity, applicants consent, should they be awarded a Knowledge Synthesis Grant, to SSHRC sharing the resulting synthesis report with other interested organizations and individuals.

Successful applicants or their delegates will be expected to attend two meetings in Ottawa to discuss the knowledge syntheses. Travel costs for these meetings should be included in the budget submitted as part of the application. Details on the meetings (scheduled for late April 2015 and mid-November 2015, respectively) will be provided to successful applicants.




Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution at the time of application.

Applicants who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but who have failed to submit a final research report by the deadline specified in their Notice of Award are not eligible to apply for this or any other SSHRC grant until they have submitted the report.

Postdoctoral fellows/researchers are eligible to apply for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant. For SSHRC to release grant funds, however, successful applicants must have formally established an affiliation with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution before the grant is awarded, and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period.


Co-applicants may be individuals from any of the following:

  • Canadian: Postsecondary institutions; not-for-profit organizations; philanthropic foundations; think tanks; and municipal, territorial or provincial governments.
  • International: Postsecondary institutions.

Postdoctoral researchers are eligible to be co-applicants for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant under the same conditions as those outlined in Applicants.


Any individual who will make a significant contribution to the research initiative is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.

Note that individuals from the private sector or federal government may participate only as collaborators.


Grant funds may only be administered by an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.


Application Process

Applications must be emailed as a .pdf file attachment, using the following format:

  • single-sided,  8 1/2" x 11" (21.5 cm x 28 cm) paper size;
  • single-spaced, with no more than six lines of type per inch;
  • body text in a minimum 12 pt Times New Roman font;
  • all margins set at a minimum of 3/4" (1.87 cm);
  • name of the institution appears within the set margins at the top right corner of every page; and
  • pages numbered consecutively following the last page of your application printout.

Applications must include the following:

  1. a letter (maximum four pages, not including references) containing:
  • a description of the knowledge synthesis project, including the significance, expected contributions and impacts of the proposed synthesis, contextualized within the current literature and accounting for previous work done in the area(s);
  • an outline of the relevant expertise and experience of the applicant/team;
  • a work plan, including timelines, and a description of the proposed methodology and approach;
  • the applicant’s signature; and
  • in the upper right-hand corner of each page, the applicant’s name and the theme and subtheme(s) under which the proposal falls;
  1. an itemized budget (maximum two pages), including justification of proposed expenditures;
  2. a knowledge mobilization plan (maximum two pages), identifying the target research users expected to receive the synthesis results, how the results will be shared with these users and one or more examples of knowledge mobilizations the applicant/team has conducted with research users;
  3. a half-page summary of the proposal written in clear, non-technical language (by submitting an application, applicants consent, should they be awarded a Knowledge Synthesis Grant, to the use of this summary for promotional purposes outside the research community to inform politicians, the media and members of the public who request information about research funded by SSHRC);
  4. a SSHRC Web CV for each applicant and co-applicant;
  5. the discipline codes that are applicable to the proposal;
  6. a list of research contributions (maximum four pages) for each applicant and co‑applicant, describing:
  • research contributions over the last six years (refereed, non-refereed and forthcoming contributions, creative outputs, etc.);
  • other contributions to research and the advancement of knowledge within the last six years, including research contributions to non-academic audiences (general public, policy-makers, private sector, not-for-profit organizations, etc.);
  • career interruptions and special circumstances; and
  • contributions to training within the last six years, including roles in supervising or co-supervising ongoing and/or completed theses, listing these by the student’s level of studies;
  1. a separate page containing the signature of an authorized signatory from the applicant’s institution, certifying that the institution will administer any award in accordance with SSHRC policies; and
  2. a signed Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information for each applicant and co-applicant.

All application materials must be submitted as PDF files and be received by February 19, 2015.

Email complete applications to KSGLearning– Applications submitted in whole or in part by any other means will not be considered.

Evaluation and Adjudication

SSHRC’s goal is to support, through this funding opportunity, syntheses covering a range of the subthemes outlined within each of the two broad thematic areas (knowledge and learning outcomes, and delivery methods, respectively).

Please note that grants may not necessarily be allocated to each subtheme; however, where there are value-added differences in approach and coverage, more than one grant may be allocated to a single subtheme.

An expert adjudication committee will assess all applications, according to theme, using the following criteria:


  • expected contribution to the funding opportunity’s stated objectives;
  • significance of the applicant’s chosen topic or area(s) for synthesis, based on the issues identified in this call for proposals;
  • potential influence and impact in informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors; and
  • identification of research gaps that might be addressed by a forward-looking research agenda in the chosen area(s).


  • ability to meet the objectives of the funding opportunity;
  • appropriateness of the methodology or approach and of the work plan, including timelines for the design and conduct of the activity; and
  • appropriateness of the requested budget.


  • qualifications of the applicant/team to carry out the proposed project (expertise in the content area, synthesis methods, information retrieval, knowledge mobilization, etc.).


Administrative Regulations

All applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide.

For descriptions of SSHRC terms, see Definitions of Terms.

Successful applicants will be required to share the results of their project with SSHRC. SSHRC will use this information to develop its policies and practices. It may also share this information with other interested sectors of the Government of Canada, as well as other organizations. This does not in any way limit how researchers may otherwise publish or use the results of their research.


Contact Information

For more information about this funding opportunity, or for advice on how to prepare your application, please contact:

Jacques Critchley
Senior Program Officer
Office of the Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Tel.: 613-992-5145
Send Applications to: